Interview with Amiri Baraka

Now, you're so intimately connected with the music and the, the, the other, all of the arts. You said something in the book about, Malcolm and Trane being selected for the same life development. Can you talk about that a little bit?


Well, you know, Trane actually, that whole movement, I mean, the arts reflect the social movement all the time. The confusion in these western academic circles, I mean, you know, like these universities and these critics that are serving a White supremacy and imperialism notwithstanding, the arts are only a reflection of society. You know, so when you have a social upsurge you always have an artistic upsurge that reflects that, you know, so that the whole anti-slavery movement, you get the slave narratives, you know, the great speeches and, and, orators and rhetoric from the Black convention movement. When you have the whole Garvey, Du Bois, African Blood Brotherhood at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, you've got Harlem Renaissance, you know, Negritude, Negrismo, Negrism and all that stuff. In the '60s, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, SNCC, the Panthers, you have a Black arts movement that reflects that because the artists who are most sensitive to what the society is doing and particularly the people that they, you know, they draw their life sustenance from. The art movement has the same kind of desire, you know. The art wants the same thing so that the, it's not like Coltrane, whose breaking out of the, the standard stating of quote, you know, the American popular song as, jazz and jazz solo, is a classic kind of case because just like, ah, ah, Malcolm, moving through different levels of experience. I mean, you know, Malcolm one time was, you know, robber, you know, pimp, you know, used to sell drugs. He was intimate with all the musicians because he used to be their drug supplier, still he was a, a man of culture. This is incredible. He was a person who exemplified the African-American people in a way that those, you know, Civil Rights, in quotes, leaders chosen by, ah, White academics and White corporations could never be, which is why he was dangerous. You know, and, so Trane, I mean, he would come up, you know, out of the South, and, you know, church music, and then he went to Philadelphia, played with all the rhythm and blues groups, Big Maybelle and, you know, finally coming up through be-bop and Charlie Parker and then, finally, you know, had gone through that whole gamut of Black experience. So when he came to the point where, ah, the society, Black people generally were beginning to make a leap, you know, a kind of revolutionary leap in their thinking, ah, I mean his music paralleled that, I mean, you know, we used to stand up and listed to Trane play a 30 minute solo, you know what I mean. He wouldn't even know, ah, I mean, it was the time had past because it was all of that feeling, all of that energy, all of that striving and all of that, ah, ah, rage, all that beauty, ah, just reflected our own feelings at the time. And I think, ah, I always hoped to that Malcolm because of the fire that, you know. I mean Trane get down and start playing one of those, I mean just mind-crushing solos that would be screaming for 20 minutes, just screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming. You could hear, ah, say the rage in Black people talking about, you know, America. I mean you could hear not only Malcolm but you could hear, you know, somebody like a Rap Brown, you know, you might hear Stokely, you could hear, you know, the Panthers, I mean you could hear that, the rap, in other words, you know, and rap music, I guess, is a further extension of all that, that feeling. I mean it seems like it's the best part of us, that the poetry and the music that's coming to the '80s, you know, and you get somebody like Public Enemy talking about "It Takes a Nation of Millions (to Hold Us Back)". You can see that that is a continuum, you know, that it contains both politics and the art, in it. Even though, you know, people want to, you know, diminish it, but they don't understand that they diminish it the same way they diminishing us. You know, they diminish it like they diminish our children. I mean how can Public Enemy be serious since our children are dope addicts and unserious[SIC], you know what I mean?


I'm sorry. Let me cut here.